The best way to begin this review is by quoting Chad's words of his legendary Link: Faces of Evil review: "Here it is, ladies and Gentlemen, the fabled Philips CD-i game you may or may not have ever heard about, let alone experienced." In The Netherlands Zelda's Adventure isn't too difficult to get ... but it doesn't come cheap. Abroad, this game is very rare and usually extremely high priced. So Chad's words are also in place here - not many people will have played this game or even heard about it.
Zelda's Adventure was released at the end of the CD-i's lifespan, and was the third and last Zelda game to hit Philips' console. But they decided to change course with this Zelda in comparison with the widely criticized prequels. First of all, they didn't hire Animation Magic to produce it, but instead replaced them with the - for me also totally unknown - producer Viridis. Secondly, this meant this Zelda turned out to be more of a role-playing game than your basic platformer like Link: Faces of Evil and Zelda: Wand of Gamelon were. Those two games stood more in the tradition of the primarily action-based Nintendo Entertain System title, while Zelda's Adventure wanted to compete with classics, like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Gameboy) and A Link to the Past (Super Nintendo). Thirdly, this game has been based on digital rendered sprites and real characters instead of the animated geeks which populated the other two adventures. So yes, be prepared to see a 'real life' Zelda.
How does this wonderful Zelda creation start? Well, an old wizard instructs our heroin by reading an ancient scroll which happened to be soiling his desk: "Gannon, Lord of Darkness, has taken over Tolemac. He has stolen the treasured celestial signs and captured Link. Make haste!" You start on a spot you will see A LOT when playing Zelda's Adventure, because every time your character dies you start over there again (except for when you die in dungeons - they have been fair enough to let you restart from the beginning of it).
As you'd expect from a CD-i Zelda game, Zelda's Adventure has some major drawbacks. The first thing you will notice is that it takes a few second every time you switch screens to load. So walking along ten areas will take a bit longer than it would in your traditional Zelda game on the 8-Bit NES! But surprisingly, this isn't the biggest flaw of the game.
The thing I hated the most were the enemies Zelda encounters on her journey. The environments look quite good and Zelda isn't badly animated herself, but the enemies ... for Pete's sake, they look more like they have been animated by a good-willing amateur with a home-editing program than actually programmed! Yes, they are really terrifying ugly and dumb as hell. Some of them demand a ridiculous amount of hits before they actually die, others will fly right into your face. The yells and screams they utter sound more like somebody vomiting.
While some of the above problems could have been overseen, it is unfortunate that there are some issues which directly impact the gameplay. First of all, the audio isn't really rightly adjusted. The sound Zelda and her enemies produce, is much louder than the volume of speaking characters. You really have to turn the sound up to understand them, but that will make the other audio too loud! But if you don't, you'll probably miss some crucial hints, since most characters will only say their lines once and there is no on-screen text.
Furthermore, while most Zelda games cover a very extensive world, it is generally not too hard to find your way around, thanks in large part to the excellent maps. Now, Zelda's Adventure has one of the most useless maps I have ever seen in a Zelda game (or any series, for that matter). It consists of red blocks without marks and only shows you already where you've been. You will find yourself wandering aimlessly around the world a lot (which is only made worse by the aforementioned loading times), without a clue were to go or what to do. With that, the inventory is too laborious to handle smoothly and it isn't always clear what the objects are used for. The weapon system is also a bit different: when you use a bow or magic it costs you gems. There are no separate arrows and stuff to gather - you just need to make sure that you have enough gems.
Zelda's Adventure is totally average, but I don't think it is such an immense disgrace to the Zelda series as the pathetic games Chad reviewed. They actually tried to make a decent game here, which succeeded if you compare it to its CD-i predecessors and even to a lot of other CD-i games. But of course, compared to games such as Link's Awakening or A Link to the Past this game pales in comparison. I think that if you're a huge Zelda fan you'll be shocked, but not as much as with the previous CD-i efforts. That leaves us with three conclusions at once: a decent effort for CD-i, an average play compared to a lot of other 16-bit games, and a failure compared to the original Zelda series. If one was able to get this cheap, it would help, but I'd advise not to spend much money on this one unless you are a collector.
I think Philips can make money nowadays by releasing a 'Philips Zelda' collection covering all the three games - they are very popular on the internet and everyone seems curious about them. I'm convinced a compilation would sell - it's a strange thing curiosity does to a lot of people. Some idiots, like me, even spend quite a bit of money to acquire stuff like Zelda's Adventure. Don't waste your money.